Former President Ahmed al-Mirghani surfaced as a client of Mossack Fonseca. Al-Mirghani, who was president from 1986 to 1989, created Orange Star Corporation in the British Virgin Islands through the Panama firm in 1995, when he was living in Egypt after the coup that ended his presidency. He was active in the Democratic Unionist Party there. Orange Star Corporation bought a long-term lease in a tony London neighborhood near Hyde Park for $600,000 the same year al-Mirghani created it, and at the time of his death held assets worth $2.72 million.
Ethnic groups in Panama include Mestizo people, who have a mix of European and native ancestry. Black Afro-Panamanians account for 15–20 percent of the population. Most Afro-Panamanians live on the Panama-Colón metropolitan area, the Darien Province, La Palma, and Bocas Del Toro. Neighborhoods in Panama City that have large black populations include: Curundu, El Chorrillo, Rio Abajo, San Joaquín, El Marañón, San Miguelito, and Santa Ana. Black Panamanians are descendants of African slaves brought to the Americas in the Atlantic Slave Trade. The second wave of black people brought to Panama came from the Caribbean during the construction of the Panama Canal. Panama also has a considerable Chinese and Indian (India) population brought to work on the canal during its construction. Most Chinese-Panamanians reside in the province of Chiriquí. Europeans and white-Panamanians are a minority in Panama. Panama is also home to a small Arab community that has mosques, practises Islam, as well as a Jewish community and many synagogues.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance of Panama, Dulcidio de la Guardia, formerly an offshore specialist at Mossack Fonseca competitor Morgan & Morgan, said the legal but often "murky" niche of establishing offshore accounts, firms and trusts make up "less than half a percentage point" of Panama's GDP. He appeared to suggest that publication of the papers was an attack on Panama because of the high level of economic growth that the country had shown.
According to ICIJ investigative partner Trinidad Express, Emrith was a close associate of Jack Warner and also owns half the shares in Proteus Holding SA, an investment he refuses to discuss because he says he has a responsibility of confidentiality to fellow shareholders. The Express also says that OAS used a Namibian port development project as camouflage for a $1 million payment from Procopio shell company Santa Tereza Services Ltd to Emirth.
The firm won’t discuss specific cases of alleged wrongdoing, citing client confidentiality. But it robustly defends its conduct. Mossack Fonseca says it complies with anti-money-laundering laws and carries out thorough due diligence on all its clients. It says it regrets any misuse of its services and tries actively to prevent it. The firm says it cannot be blamed for failings by intermediaries, who include banks, law firms and accountants.
A commonly relayed legend in Panama is that there was a fishing village that bore the name "Panamá", which purportedly meant "an abundance of fish", when the Spanish colonizers first landed in the area. The exact location of the village is unknown. The legend is usually corroborated by Captain Antonio Tello de Guzmán's diary entries, who reports landing at an unnamed village while exploring the Pacific coast of Panama in 1515; he only describes the village as a "same small indigenous fishing town". In 1517, Don Gaspar de Espinosa, a Spanish lieutenant, decided to settle a post in the same location Guzmán described. In 1519, Pedrarias Dávila decided to establish the Spanish Empire's Pacific port at the site. The new settlement replaced Santa María La Antigua del Darién, which had lost its function within the Crown's global plan after the Spanish exploitation of the riches in the Pacific began.
Spanish is the official and dominant language. The Spanish spoken in Panama is known as Panamanian Spanish. About 93 percent of the population speak Spanish as their first language. Many citizens who hold jobs at international levels, or at business corporations, speak both English and Spanish. Native languages, such as Ngäbere, are spoken throughout the country, mostly in their native territories. Over 400,000 Panamanians keep their native languages and customs. Some new statistics show that as second language, English is spoken by 10 percent, French by 4 percent and Arabic by 1 percent.
The Panama Papers are documents that contain personal financial information about a number of wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private. Among those named in the leak were a dozen current or former world leaders, 128 other public officials, and politicians and hundreds of celebrities, business people and other rich individuals.
Mossack Fonseca has managed more than 300,000 companies over the years. The number of active companies peaked at more than 80,000 in 2009. Over 210,000 companies in twenty-one jurisdictions figure in the leaks. More than half were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, others in Panama, the Bahamas, the Seychelles, Niue, and Samoa. Mossack Fonseca's clients have come from more than 100 countries. Most of the corporate clients were from Hong Kong, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Panama, and Cyprus. Mossack Fonseca worked with more than 14,000 banks, law firms, incorporators, and others to set up companies, foundations, and trusts for their clients. Some 3,100 companies listed in the database appear to have ties to US offshore specialists, and 3,500 shareholders of offshore companies list US addresses. Mossack Fonseca has offices in Nevada and Wyoming.
The number of tourists from Europe grew by 23.1 percent during the first nine months of 2008. According to the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP), from January to September, 71,154 tourists from Europe entered Panama, 13,373 more than in same period the previous year. Most of the European tourists were Spaniards (14,820), followed by Italians (13,216), French (10,174) and British (8,833). There were 6997 from Germany, the most populous country in the European Union. Europe has become one of the key markets to promote Panama as a tourist destination.
Former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani owned Afrodille S.A., which had a bank account in Luxembourg and shares in two South African companies. Al Thani also held a majority of the shares in Rienne S.A. and Yalis S.A., holding a term deposit with the Bank of China in Luxembourg. A relative owned 25 percent of these: Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar's former prime minister and foreign minister.
Newspaper Ming Pao fired deputy editor Keung Kwok-yuen following a front-page article on the Panama Papers which mentioned many prominent Hong Kong citizens. The paper blamed a "difficult business environment," but had previously fired another editor in 2014 over another leak of offshore documents. Employees have been publishing blank columns scattered through the newspaper in protest of his dismissal.
Panama still has a reputation worldwide for being a tax haven but has agreed to enhanced transparency, especially since the release in 2016 of the Panama Papers. Significant progress has been made to improve full compliance with anti-money laundering recommendations. Panama was removed from the FATFGAFI gray list in February 2016. However efforts remain to be made, and the IMF repeatedly mentions the need to strengthen financial transparency and fiscal structure.
Panamá is located between the Pacific Ocean and tropical rain forest in the northern part of Panama. The Parque Natural Metropolitano (Metropolitan Nature Park), stretching from Panama City along the Panama Canal, has unique bird species and other animals, such as tapir, puma, and caimans. At the Pacific entrance of the canal is the Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas (Marine Exhibitions Center), a research center for those interested in tropical marine life and ecology, managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
During the 16th century, education in Panama was provided by Jesuits. Public education began as a national and governmental institution in 1903. The principle underlying the early education system was that children should receive different types of education in accordance with their social class and therefore the position they were expected to occupy in society.
In response to queries from the Miami Herald and ICIJ, Mossack Fonseca issued a 2,900-word statement listing legal requirements that prevent using offshore companies for tax avoidance and total anonymity, such as FATF protocols which require identifying ultimate beneficial owners of all companies (including offshore companies) before opening any account or transacting any business.
The current wife of former prime minister of Spain Felipe González, María García Vaquero, opened an account in Switzerland for Carmingo Ltd in 2004 in the tax haven of Niue, an island in the South Pacific. The lawyer Cándido Conde-Pumpido Jr., son of former General Prosecutor of Spain and magistrate of the Supreme Court of Spain, Cándido Conde-Pumpido, asked to open a Mossack Fonseca offshore company in 2008, though the transaction wasn't completed[why?]. He had intended the offshore company to be an intermediary in a project to build a skyscraper in the capital of Panama, not to hide money.
Anti-corruption group Transparency International believes that the "creation of businesses while serving as president is a direct violation of the constitution". Also, journalists from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project believe that with the move Poroshenko committed two other illegalities, starting a new business while in office and failing afterwards to report it on his disclosure statements. Poroshenko denied any wrongdoing and a spokesman said the offshore company had no active assets and was a legitimate corporate restructure aimed at helping to sell Poroshenko's Roshen group. Analysts in Ukraine responded that the secretive way Poroshenko set up these accounts was certain to undermine trust in him, his party and Ukraine itself.